History Tax on Knights Land

History of Accounting > Tax History > THE LAND TAX ON THE KNIGHT’S FEE

TERMED SCUTAGE. 1159—1180.
Continental position of the Angevin kings. Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her claim to the county of Toulouse. The scutage of Toulouse, 1159. The scutage of Ireland, 1172. The scutage of Galloway, 1180.
Not long after the accession of Henry Plantagenet to the throne of England, the military obligation of the tenants by knight service was for the first time commuted for a money payment or tax on the knight’s fee. Henry’s position was still that of a continental rather than an island king. Count of Anjou, which, with Touraine, he inherited with his father; duke of Normandy, which, with Maine, he inherited from his mother; and governing Brittany through his brother, he added to his possessions by his marriage with Eleonore, heiress of duke William VII. of Aquitaine, after her divorce from the unsuccessful crusader, Louis VII., Poitou, Saintonge, Gascony, and the Basque country, in short, all the most beautiful provinces of the south-west of France from Nantes to the Pyrenees, and was possessed of a much larger territory on the continent than the king of France.1
1 The possessions of the King of France at this date comprised no more than the He de France and parts of Picardy and the Orldannais, The heiress of Aquitaine had claims to the county of Toulouse, which in 1159 Henry prepared himself to enforce. The distance of the scene of contest, the difficulties of the way, the warlike character of count Raymond, and the probability that he would be assisted by Louis, who was suzerain to the duke of Aquitaine, all combined to render it probable that the expedition would be long and arduous. Hitherto, on an expedition, it had been the practice strictly to enforce the obligation of personal attendance on the king in arms according to the array. All those holding by tenure of knight service had been required to come; and essoins, or excuses from personal attendance and attendance by deputy, had been allowed only to spiritual persons holding per baroniara, or in cases of sickness, where the king’s tenant was ‘ill and languishing.’ But a growing disinclination to foreign service affected all the lesser knights. Settled in English homes, and without any continental connection, they felt little interest in any foreign expeditions, and less than usual, if any, in this distant contest for the extension of the possessions of the duke of Aquitaine.
On the other hand, the feudal array had always proved difficult to manage: important barons arrived late at the muster of the host; and all sorts of disputes and wranglings occurred about place and precedence; while the limitation of the term of compulsory service to forty days in the year rendered necessary, when that term was completed, some new arrangement for any prolonged expedition. A full purse and an army of mercenaries would certainly suit the object the king had in view better than those inconvenient feudal arrangements; and these the king and his chancellor, Thomas Becket, now his intimate friend and chief adviser, determined to obtain for the expedition to Toulouse.
Already, for the army for the king’s expedition to Wales in the second year of the reign, the prelates bound to military service had been required, in lieu of attendance, to pay twenty shillings for every knight’s fee. This precedent was followed and extended in its application; and king Henry, ‘taking into consideration the length and difficulty of the way, and being unwilling to disturb either the knights who lived in the country or the burghers and country people generally, levied, in Normandy, sixty Angevin shillings on every knight’s fee, and from all his other possessions, in Normandy, England, or elsewhere, according to that which seemed to him good, and took with him, for the expedition to Toulouse, his chief barons with a few personal followers, and an innumerable host of mercenaries.’ 1
The rate for England was two marks, II. 6s. 8d., on the fee of 201. annual value; and the tax was termed Scutage, or shield money :—’ Hoc anno, 1159, rex Henricus scotaguim sive scutagium de Anglia accepit.’2 The expedition to Toulouse lasted three months.
This land tax on the knight’s fee, in composition for military service in person by the king’s tenant in
Monte, Stubba, Select Charters, p. 122.
Gervas, Twysden, Hift. Angl. Script, p 1381.

capite and his followers, was again employed in 1172; when Henry collected another scutage from those of his tenants in chief who did not accompany him or send any knights or money for his expedition in the previous year to take possession of Ireland;l but on this occasion the rate, as for a less expensive expedition than that of Toulouse, was only twenty shillings on the fee.
After this, there was, in 1186, a scutage for an expedition to Galloway, which fell through in consequence of the submission of Eonald, who met the king at Carlisle and did homage for the principality.
1 The scutage was charged under the title, ‘De scutagio militum qui nee aMerunt,’ &c., Madox, p. 438.

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